Van Morrison

Van Morrison's show at the Wiltern last year was pure country. This year it's all about assimilation. "Pay the Devil," a disc dominated by covers of 1950s and '60s post-twang Nashville tunes, exposed a side of Morrison that had only been hinted at over the years, most noticeably 30-odd years ago on "Tupelo Honey."

With:
Band: Van Morrison, John Allair, George "Crawford" Bell, Sarah Jory, John "Ned" Edwards, Tony Fitzgibbons, Paul Moore, John Platania, Neal Wilkinson, Karen Hamill, Janeen Daly.

Van Morrison’s show at the Wiltern last year was pure country. This year it’s all about assimilation. “Pay the Devil,” a disc dominated by covers of 1950s and ’60s post-twang Nashville tunes, exposed a side of Morrison that had only been hinted at over the years, most noticeably 30-odd years ago on “Tupelo Honey.” With a different band in tow at the Gibson Amphitheater, Morrison eased into the territory of his idols — Ray Charles, Sam Cooke and James Brown — plowing through the boundaries that separate R&B and country.

It was about as American a show as one may ever get from the Belfast Cowboy, who turned in a fine Louis Armstrong impersonation, delivered a few inspired rapid-fire alto sax solos and marvelously mumbled Cooke’s “You Send Me” as a coda to “Real Real Gone.” His rock ‘n’ roll choices were limited to “Gloria,” “Wild Night” and “Brown-Eyed Girl”; the rest of the night was soaked in blues, jazz and country, but only the most hardcore examples — “Saint James Infirmary,” Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me” and his George Jones-inspired composition “Playhouse” — were blocked from any cross-genre pollination.

Rest of the evening was a throwback to the Charles methodology of the early 1960s: A strong commanding vocal filled with agony and the pursuit of joy; horns and organs that ebb and flow in volume and texture; female voices to soften the blow of the lyrics; and instrumental soloists who echo the timbre of the singer. On Wednesday, Sarah Jory did a spectacular job with weepy pedal steel and dobro solos, even garnering chuckles when she slipped Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” into “Bright Side of the Road.”

The jump blues version of “Moondance” that Morrison’s been playing since he cut two jazz-influenced albums for Blue Note and “Bright Side of the Road” were the lone hopeful tunes in the 95-minute set; he allowed daughter Shauna to open the show with a record-perfect version of “Into the Mystic,” which she covered rather nicely.

Morrison is not touring. He was in town to accept the U.S.-Ireland Alliance’s annual award at its Oscar Wilde party Thursday at the Wilshire Ebell Theater. Perf also coincided with EMI’s release of “Van Morrison at the Movies,” a compilation of the singer’s tracks that have appeared in films.

Van Morrison

Gibson Amphitheater; 6,089 seats; $125 top.

Production: Presented by House of Blues Concerts. Reviewed Feb. 21, 2007.

Cast: Band: Van Morrison, John Allair, George "Crawford" Bell, Sarah Jory, John "Ned" Edwards, Tony Fitzgibbons, Paul Moore, John Platania, Neal Wilkinson, Karen Hamill, Janeen Daly.

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